Monday, September 23, 2013

Coming This Week--Boswell's Event Post for Alice McDermott, Paul Harding, Karen Joy Fowler, John Eastberg and Eric Vogel, Antoine Laurain, Hannah Kent and Kathleen Kent, M.W. Greer and Andrea Skyberg, and a preview for Gretchen Primack Next Monday. Whew!

This may be the best event week of the year from my perspective, but please don't tell the other weeks. I know them pretty well from the last few years, and some of them have jealous streaks. And the first week of November can be very prickly, what with all the Halloween clean-up that needs to happen.

I'll start each presentation with some publisher copy, following up with a tangent and at least one interesting link, all to convince you that you should really consider moving into that apartment on Lake Drive. I'm not going to put the copy in quotes because 1) Nobody else does and 2) It will play havoc with the quotations inside the copy.

Monday, September 23, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jane Hamilton presents Karen Joy Fowler, author of We are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she tells us. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

Rosemary was not yet six when Fern was removed. Over the years, she’s managed to block a lot of memories. She’s smart, vulnerable, innocent, and culpable. With some guile, she guides us through the darkness, penetrating secrets and unearthing memories, leading us deeper into the mystery she has dangled before us from the start. Stripping off the protective masks that have hidden truths too painful to acknowledge, in the end, “Rosemary” truly is for remembrance.

I had an interesting conversation with Jane Hamilton about whether you should give away Fern's identity when writing about the book. In the end, we agreed that knowing the twist right away is fine. Part of the great experience of Fowler's novel is the construction of the story, and that works even without the surprise.

Rob Thomas in the Wisconsin State Journal decided to review the book without the revelation. He writes "Fowler (Sarah Canary, The Jane Austen Book Club) is a brilliant writer who confidently plays with literary form and reader expectations while still keeping her story’s emotional thread taut and alive. Beside Ourselves is a book of surprises both dramatic and emotional." The Madison paper reviewed Fowler in conjunction with her visit to A Room of One's Own tomorrow. Their event starts at 6:30 pm.

Spread the word with our Facebook event page.

Tuesday, September 24, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Antoine Laurain, author of The President's Hat.
This event is co-sponsored by L'Alliance Française de Milwaukee and The Brass Rooster.

Dining alone in an elegant Parisian brasserie, accountant Daniel Mercier can hardly believe his eyes when President François Mitterrand sits down to eat at the table next to him.

After the presidential party has gone, Daniel discovers that Mitterrand's black felt hat has been left behind. After a few moments' soul-searching, Daniel decides to keep the hat as a souvenir of an extraordinary evening. It's a perfect fit, and as he leaves the restaurant Daniel begins to feel somehow . . . different.

Has Daniel (editor's note: not me) unwittingly discovered the secret of supreme power?

Yes, he has, but unfortunately, he loses the hat to someone else. This genre, of following the object instead of the people as the thread of the story, has a long and storied history, but the only example I can think of early on Monday morning is The Red Violin, a film from 1998. People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks might fall into this genre.

There's a wonderful reading group guide to download, where in an interview, Antoine Laurain discusses François Mitterand, the eighties, and how Laurain's background as a filmmaker came into the story. I am trying to bring something to the party myself, by locating my Mylene Farmer albums (not vinyl but cd) for us to play in the store tomorrow.

Spread the word with our Facebook event page.

Wednesday, September 25, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Paul Harding, author of Enon and Tinkers.

The publisher tagline: "A stunning allegorical novel about one man's enduring love for his daughter."

"Harding is an extraordinary writer, for the intoxicating power of his prose, the range of his imagination, and above all for the redemptive humanity of his vision. With painstaking brilliance, Enon charts one man's attempt to salvage meaning from meaningless tragedy, to endure the ubiquitous presence of a loved one's absence. A superb account of the banality and uniqueness of bereavement, it more than earns its place alongside such non-fictional classics as Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and CS Lewis's A Grief Observed. That Enon is a work of fiction that feels authentic as memoir makes it all the more astonishing."---Rebecca Abrams, Financial Times

"An extraordinary follow-up to the author's Pulitzer Prize-winning debut…Harding's subject is consciousness rooted in a contemporary moment but bound to a Puritan past. His prose is steeped in a visionary, transcendentalist tradition that echoes Blake, Rilke, Emerson, and Thoreau, and makes for a darkly intoxicating read."--The New Yorker

“Enon is a lovely book about grief, the ways in which we punish ourselves for feeling it, and, ultimately, how we rebuild our lives even when they seem unsalvageable." --Collette Shade, New York Daily News

"Enon, however, is far from merely the story of one man's descent. Amid all the episodes of real-world dissipation, the book's best writing arrives in the many instances where Charlie encounters visions, both good and bad. Haunted by memories of his daughter, he frequently lapses into beautiful reveries of their time together. The author makes simple things — like the pair feeding birds from their hands, or Charlie buying his daughter a bike or remembering their last conversation — both joyful and heartbreaking. Harding conveys the common but powerful bond of parental love with devastating accuracy."--John Barron, Chicago Tribune

I could go on all day, but you get the point. The other point I want to make here is that Harding's appearance for Tinkers was one of the most talked about of the year. Even folks who hadn't read the book were drawn to Harding. Maybe it's his previous life as a musician, but he has the presence of a performer.

Spread the word with our Facebook event page.

Thursday, September 26, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Kathleen Kent, author of The Outcasts and The Heretic's Daughter, along with Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites.

The big news is that Fox6 has picked Burial Rites as their inaugural selection of the Studio A book club. Studio A is a new afternoon local show that mixes news and entertainment.  If you haven't heard about the show, the Fox folks say "Studio A will focus on what’s happening and what’s current in our area, as well as what makes Milwaukee such a vibrant place to live and raise a family." You can read more in this piece.

We've been yapping away at how excited we are about the coming of the Kents. I've been calling it The New Kent Family Chronicles, but the problems with this are manifold, most notably 1) Hannah and Kathleen are unrelated and 2) Nobody seems to know the reference to the old John Jakes novels (North and South, et al)

So we've got me and Jane and Anne and Jannis talking the book up. The trick on these events with first novels is that even when everyone is crazy about the book, it's another trick entirely to get the crowd to come out for the event. I remember how shocked I was at the success of Elizabeth Kostova's event for The Historian in Brookfield, but I'm equally aware that even high profile authors can get poor turnouts without a lot of work on the booksellers' part.

We've got dedicated blog posts about every event listed thus far. I haven't been linking to them, as I figured that most of you are regular blog readers, but I'd be remiss if I didn't give an extra push to Kent, who as a newcomer without the Francophile hook, needs it.

Just a few more recommendations. Lucy Scholes in The Guardian calls Burial Rites "A debut of rare sophistication and beauty – a simple but moving story, meticulously researched and hauntingly told."

But we don't want to leave out Kathleen Kent. Author of The Heretic's Daughter, which Chelsea Cain (she's appearing with Chuck Palahniuk on October 12 at the UWM Union Wisconsin Room, by the way) called this first novel in The New York Times "a powerful coming-of-age tale in which tragedy is trumped by an unsinkable faith in human nature."

Her new novel, The Outcasts, is a taut, thrilling adventure story about buried treasure, a manhunt, and a woman determined to make a new life for herself in the old west.

It's the 19th century on the Gulf Coast, a time of opportunity and lawlessness. After escaping the Texas brothel where she'd been a virtual prisoner, Lucinda Carter heads for Middle Bayou to meet her lover, who has a plan to make them both rich, chasing rumors of a pirate's buried treasure.

Meanwhile Nate Cannon, a young Texas policeman with a pure heart and a strong sense of justice, is on the hunt for a ruthless killer named McGill who has claimed the lives of men, women, and even children across the frontier. Who--if anyone--will survive when their paths finally cross?

As Lucinda and Nate's stories converge, guns are drawn, debts are paid, and Kathleen Kent delivers an unforgettable portrait of a woman who will stop at nothing to make a new life for herself.

More on Kent's website. And here's our Facebook event page.

Friday, September 27, 7 pm:
M.W. (Michael) Greer, launching The Eyes of India, reading with Andrea Skyberg, author of Squircle and Communitree.

Andrea Skyberg, the artist and writer behind Snickeyfritz, will discuss her new titles, Squircle, and, CommuniTree, and M.W. Greer will launch his first book, The Eyes of India. Their books each feature artwork produced with the creative help of students from area schools. Skyberg andGreer will share their stories and offer insight into how artists and teachers can explore collaborations of their own.

Andrea Skyberg is an artist and writer who also works with schools as an artist educator. Her children’s books, Squircle and Snickeyfritz were honored as Mom’s Choice Award winners.

M.W. Greer is author and illustrator of the mid grade novel The Eyes of India. When not writing books, Greer works as an interactive designer building educational training.

They are the owners of Wooden Nickel Press, an independent publisher that specializes in children’s books with high artistic creation blended with engaging, lesson-driven stories.

These local events with entrepreneurial authors may not be as glamorous as hosting a Pulitzer prize winner, but they can often be the most rewarding. I received a thank you note from one of the authors who read here in the past few weeks, saying that her event was one of the highlights of her writing life. How can that not warm your heart?

I should note, however, that we expect our local authors to work hard. When you've got a schedule like this, it's hard for me to make your work stand out, and that's why we have a lot of requirements to make sure the event is a success.

Saturday, September 28, 11 am (note time):
Alice McDermott, author of Somone, That Night, Child of My Heart, Charming Billy, At Weddings and Wakes, After This, and A Bigamist's Daughter.

I was surprised to see that That Night was McDermott's highest demand backlist title on Ingram. Who knew? Here's some publisher copy.

An ordinary life—its sharp pains and unexpected joys, its bursts of clarity and moments of confusion—lived by an ordinary woman: this is the subject of Someone, Alice McDermott’s extraordinary return, seven years after the publication of After This. Scattered recollections—of childhood, adolescence, motherhood, old age—come together in this transformative narrative, stitched into a vibrant whole by McDermott’s deft, lyrical voice.

One thing that makes talking up the event easy, aside from the four amazing reads from Boswellians, is that there are lots and lots of great reviews of the book.

"Each slide, each scene, from the ostensibly inconsequential to the clearly momentous, is illuminated with equal care. The effect on the reader is of sitting alongside the narrator, sharing the task of sifting the salvaged fragments of her life, watching her puzzle over, rearrange and reconsider them — and at last, but without any particular urgency or certitude, tilting herself in the direction of finally discerning their significance." --Leah Hager Cohen in The New York Times Book Review

After a seven-year hiatus, National Book Award winner Alice McDermott returns with her seventh novel, Someone, a quiet tour de force of a story. McDermott writes in lyrical yet methodical prose about an ordinary woman living an ordinary life, a seemingly nonstory with heartache, joy, suffering and beauty all simmering beneath the scattered recollections that make up the novel.--Elaina Smith in The Kansas City Star

Just as McDermott manages to write lyrically in plain language, she is able to find the drama in uninflected experience. This is the grand accomplishment of Someone, a deceptively simple book that is, in fact, extraordinarily artful, a novel that traces the arc of an unexceptional, almost anonymous life and, seemingly by accident though of course on purpose, turns a run-of-the-mill story into a poem." --Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times

I agree with Charles that McDermott's prose is almost like poetry, but unlike some poets turned novelists, the language never competes with the story. If folks are wondering about the odd time, such as our friend John, who just finished the book yesterday (we had a spirited conversation about the ending), we're added on to two days in Chicago, and 11 am event allowed Ms. McDermott to leave for home earlier. Whatever it takes, right?

I love that one of McDermott's books was translated as A Visit to Brooklyn. I'm pretty sure that this is At Weddings and Wakes, but it could have also been appropriate for Someone as well. More on the Facebook event page.  Help spread the word!

Sunday, September 29, 3 pm (note time), at Boswell:
John Eastberg (left and below) and Eric Vogel (at right), authors of Layton's Legacy: A Historic American Art Collection, 1888-2013.

Frederick Layton (1827-1919) was among the very first art collectors in America to fund a purpose-built civic art gallery for the public's use and enjoyment. Second only to the 1874 Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the 1888 Layton Art Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, presented a new model for the single-patron art museum in America, one significantly different from the established museums of Boston and New York. Frederick Layton and his British architect George Audsley developed a new vision for a more intimate art museum experience. They drew upon their knowledge of English precedents to create a refined, single-story, top-lit, urban gallery that would influence the development of the American art museum well into the twentieth century.

Layton's Legacy draws on a recently discovered archive of Layton family papers, travel journals, and vintage photographs and on five years of extensive archival research in the United States and Great Britain. John C. Eastberg traces the trajectory of the collection's development from its English origins through its grand European acquisitions, Gilded Age art auctions in New York, Progressive-era renovations, postwar deaccessions, and demolition of the original gallery, all leading to a new era of curatorial innovation and major American art acquisitions at the end of the twentieth century. Eric Vogel looks more closely at the architectural history of the original Layton Art Gallery and its influence on the continuing lineage of the single-patron art museum.

Layton's Legacy also includes the first fully illustrated documentation of the entire 125-year history of the Layton Art Collection, demonstrating its formative place in the development of the American art museum. It includes object entries from more than twenty scholars of American and European painting, furniture, and decorative art and features the works of artists Eastman Johnson, Winslow Homer, Frederick Church, Thomas Cole, Bastien Lepage, William Bourguereau, James Tissot, Frederic Leighton, and Alma Tadema, among many others. Eminent scholars of nineteenth-century art, Dianne Macleod and Giles Waterfield, contribute forewords.

This may be the book's launch, but it's not the last you'll hear of what will definitively be the art book of the season, at least for the Milwaukee area, and dare I say it, Wisconsin. Though priced at $75, this is clearly $125 worth of book, with the price subsidized by foundation money. It's truly spectacular and any sophisticated Southeastern Wisconsiner should have this book in their library. It wouldn't hurt to have signatures from both authors too.

Spread the word using our Facebook event page.

Preview! Monday, September 30, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Gretchen Primack, author of Kind.

Gretchen Primack’s latest collection of poetry explores the dynamic between humans and animals in the 21st century. “Kind merges my social justice concerns with my poetic concerns,” says Primack, whose work has appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Best New Poets, Poet Lore, and many other literary journals. “I’m pleased to share the poems with Milwaukee, where my poetry and activism really began.”

Says poet Celia Bland, “To better understand Gretchen Primack’s work, look to the poets she evokes in her poetry: Pablo Neruda, Stanley Kunitz, Walt Whitman—writers whose works and lives are indistinguishably intertwined in conviction and originality and force.”

Kind is Gretchen Primack’s third collection of poetry. She is also co-author of the memoir The Lucky Ones, which was selected as Book of the Year by VegNews Magazine. While in Milwaukee for three years working as a labor organizer with SEIU and then FNHP, Primack studied poetry at UWM with 2009-10 Wisconsin Poet Laureate Marilyn Taylor. She then moved to New York to head Women’s Rights at Work, an anti-sexual harassment project of Citizen Action, and now lives and writes in the Hudson Valley.

A portion of the author’s proceeds from the event will be donated to local animal organizations, including the Wisconsin Humane Society in honor of Sally, the beloved dog she adopted from there.

I'm happy to say that the books of Primack, Greer, and Skyberg are all available for purchase on the Boswell website. It's something that I've been remiss about in the past (uploading self-published and micro press titles that are not on our feed from our supplier), but I'm trying to be better!

And yes, there's an event page for Primack's reading as well. If you know Primack from her time in Milwaukee, and want to help spread the word about her upcoming appearance, an easy way is to post this event page to your wall.

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